David Brooks, in his column yesterday, cites some amazing statistics (mainly from "Start-Up Nation" by Dan Senor and Saul Singer) about Israel's technological achievements. For instance, between 1980 and 2000, Egypt registered 77 patents in the U.S., Saudis registered 171, while Israelis registered 7,652. And of course, Israel has more companies listed on the Nasdaq than any other country except the U.S.
So if Israel achieves so much, under such adverse conditions, why are some of its leaders such putzes? Diplomacy requires less intelligence than, say, particle physics, but for some reason Israel has real difficulty managing its relations with countries that are indispensable to its future. The case in point this week is Danny Ayalon, the deputy foreign minister, and former ambassador to Washington, who intentionally humiliated the Turkish ambassador, and then announced in Hebrew to the media that he was intentionally humiliating the Turkish ambassador:
Summoned by Ayalon over an anti-Israeli television show in Turkey, Celikkol was made to sit in a chair lower than that of the deputy foreign minister, while the Turkish flag was deliberately not on display during the meeting... At the beginning of his Monday meeting with Celikkol, Ayalon told cameramen in Hebrew: "Pay attention that he is sitting in a lower chair ... that there is only an Israeli flag on the table and that we are not smiling."
Unbelievable. Israel is sixty-two years old. It's time to grow up.